It was fitting that Chiefs quarterback Tyler Bray, on his first play after checking into a preseason game against Cincinnati, threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Seantavius Jones.
Pretty much summed up the Chiefs’ quarterback situation.
Alex Smith has hardly missed through his first two exhibition games, leading the Chiefs downfield with relative ease. Patrick Mahomes has moved past Bray to No. 2 on the depth chart, the first-round draft pick dazzling coaches and fans alike.
And even Bray, who for five years has held onto a roster spot despite never appearing in a real game, has flashed moments of promise.
Like his touchdown pass against the Bengals on Saturday night, when he zipped a throw to Jones in perfect stride.
“All three guys played well. You could go into a game with those guys and feel comfortable,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We never close our eyes to anything — our eyes are always open — but these guys showed they can play and move the ball.”
Smith was 4 of 6 for 48 yards while leading the Chiefs to a touchdown in his only series in their preseason opener against San Francisco. He was even crisper against the Bengals, going 8 of 9 for 83 yards while leading Kansas City to a field goal on its first offensive possession and capping the second with a short touchdown strike to backup tight end Demetrius Harris.
“We treat it for what it is,” Smith said, before admitting: “No one skipped a beat, right? Everyone was kind of feeding off each other, going out there making plays, even to the end.”
Reid was planning to let Smith play the entire first half, but he called an audible after two well-executed scoring drives and let Mahomes play spanning halftime.
The former Texas Tech star gave Chiefs fans reason to feel good about the future.
After a few shaky moments in his debut, when he was the third-string quarterback, Mahomes looked right at home leading Reid’s complex offense. He was 10 of 14 for 88 yards with a pair of touchdown passes, and he showed off his moxie and running ability by adding 29 yards on the ground.
“Our quarterback play is as good as it gets,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “We have a veteran in Alex, and we like the play of Patrick, too. It doesn’t matter who is in the game.”
There is no debating that Smith is the starting quarterback, as much as some fans would like to see Mahomes get his shot right away. He’s been through the ringer and knows what it takes to lead a team into the playoffs, just as he did taking Kansas City to an AFC West title last season.
But the Chiefs traded up to take Mahomes with the 10th overall pick for a reason.
Smith’s contract becomes expensive to carry and cheap to let go after this year, and even he has alluded to the fact that he might not be in Kansas City next season. Two preseason performances by Mahomes have only confirmed that the rookie with the big arm is the Chiefs’ quarterback of the future.
“He made a couple plays where he threw from his back foot and still put the ball where it was supposed to go. Those are the types of plays you can’t teach,” Kelce said. “He does a lot of things very well. He’s on-point, and the reason our offense is clicking as well as it is.”
Smith could have taken umbrage with the decision to draft Mahomes, just like the rookie’s dazzling play could create some awkward tension in the quarterback room.
But the fact that Smith has been every bit as solid alleviates any of that concern, and the reality is that Smith would rather help tutor a protege than carry any animosity about Mahomes eventually taking his job.
In that respect, the Chiefs have one of the most enviable quarterback situations in the league.
“They love challenging each other. They throw the ball against the goal posts and compete there,” Reid said, referring to an end-of-practice accuracy challenge. “Everything is a competition. They love it and thrive on it. But they support each other and that’s fun to watch.”